Tuesday, January 18, 2005

latham taps mat

Bob Carr is reported to have said, Mark Latham as leader, that will be an interesting six months. Well Bob, you seriously underestimated your former staffer.

Monday, January 17, 2005

more labor hijinks

The Latham story has been great fun, except if you are Labor MP.

The poor buggers agonised over the last leadership vote because, although many of them believed Latham to be barking mad they doubted that Beazley could or would change; after all who can forget him telling Maxine McKew, ‘ I have learned my lesson, from now on simplicity will be my talisman’.

One shadow minister said a couple of nights before the vote, explaining why he was reluctant to vote for Latham despite having no faith in Beazley, ‘mate, you don’t know the half of it, he (Latham)’s a f.......... lunatic’.

I expect that right now the next generation will be thinking hard about whether they can or should run if there is a contest in the next month or so.

Tanner probably has to, he needs to get out there and gather some solid support around him, even if it is only to direct preferences to the winner. He needs to establish a solid base of support.

Gillard I suspect has seen Latham as the best chance to advance her own interests, whatever his shortcomings. A sort of ‘riding the tiger’ tactic. Tricky to know what to do next, is it better to stand and maybe just miss, but be well placed for next time, or to cut a deal and deliver votes for the winner in return for the deputy's job.

Rudd probably figures that if Beazley runs Smith and Swan won't, so he then must decide if this is his great opportunity to gather those right votes who are wary of going back to Big Bomber.

It is always tricky to know whether your current level of support marks a stage in enexorable growth, and you can afford to be patient, or whether it's a high water mark best cashed in while you can.

Young Prince Hal

One interesting juxtaposition in the weekend papers, a few pages on from Prince Harry getting a bollocking for his lack of taste, Bigpond were using a photo of Lenin as the comedy hook in an ad for it’s online music store.

I don’t know, but if I were an elderly Russian Jew, or a Lithunian, etc, sipping my coffee in St Kilda or Double Bay on a Saturday morning, I might find that equally distasteful.

Monday, January 03, 2005

UN and the Tsunami

it'll take billions and 10 years:UN

well it will if the UN is allowed to run the show

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Did Abraham Lincoln spend his nights trawling the gay bars and nightclubs of early Washington, or did he simply meet a special friend for the odd quiet moment together. For the record, I’m tipping that reliable witnesses will be rather hard to find.

From my reading I understand that it is a matter of considerable conjecture,and I wonder why.

Is is that one's sexual preference is really so much at the core of one's being, or is it just part of that touching insistence on the part of the gay brotherhood that nearly all important figures are or were, well, one of them.

Here in Sydney, or at least in the eastern suburbs, every second gay chap will, confidentially, tell you that (insert name of married prominent public or political figure here) is definitely gay. Why, he will say, Public Figure is well known at (insert name of gay venue here), and a bloke I know well goes out with a bloke who used to go out with him.

Over the years I have heard this about almost every prominent Sydney figure, especially of the left. Indeed, one hears it of everyone except those with such well-earned reputations as pants-men as would cause such an allegation to be risible. It is, of course, all great fun, and part of Sydney's obsession with gossip and inside knowledge, and it doesn't seem to do any damage at all to anyone involved.

But do we learn anything new about old Abe if we know with whom he played hide the sausage, or that he preferred to do it with other blokes. Did he bring a gay sensitivity to his conduct of the Civil War, for instance? Would it change our assesment of him, or his part in history?

I thought I knew a bit about Abe, and why he was an important historical figure, and I knew it without knowing anything about his sex life at all. I guess I knew that there was a Mrs Lincoln, but all I know of her is the wonderful old joke, “but apart from that Mrs Lincoln, what did you think of the play?”

Maybe, just maybe, this obsession with proving the sexuality of some long-dead person is identity politics gone a bit more potty than usual.

Friday, December 03, 2004

the speech the leader should have given tonight

We have had a tough month or two. We lost the election, which was terribly disappointing to all on our side of politics.

Since then we have indulged in a bit of old-fashioned labor bloodletting.

Well, that’s pretty much in the past now; as much as bloodletting in the labour party is ever in the past.

Now, we look forward.

We acknowledge that the policies we put forward in the last election were not, in total, embraced by the Australian people.

Consequently, our policies are up for review. We do listen to the Australian people.

Our principles, however, are not up for review.

They are the principles which have always underpinned the Labor party. We know the Australian people trust our principles. They did when they elected the Hawke and Keating governments.

The principles?

We believe in opportunity, in a fair go for all Australians, in a fair chance for all Australian children.

We believe in an open economy, in competition, in a fair go for consumers, workers and employers.

We recognise that the markets will not always get it right; that sometimes governments will have to intervene on behalf of consumers, or workers, or in the interests of a competitive and vibrant economy and society.

We believe all Australians deserve access to a good education and competent health care, and should be able to look forward to old age with a degree of security.

We believe that we should leave our environment in a better state for our children than our parents left it for us.

We have great faith in the Australian people. We believe that they are hard-working, forward-thinking, tolerant, inclusive, and generous. We believe that the history of Australia, is, by and large, a proud one.

We have built a society which we can be proud of. A society, a way of life, and a culture, which is the envy of many, and a beacon to people from far-off lands.

Nevertheless, we have one great national failure.

The fate of our indigenous peoples troubles all Australians. For all the efforts of many Australians of good-will, many aspects of indigenous life are worse, or no better, than they have been.

As Michael Long has pointed out, indigenous life expectancy is too low, or as Michael was reported to have said, he is going to too may funerals of young aborigenes.

Figures for health, education, school attendance, employment, crime, incarceration, are all depressing to read.

Well, do we have solutions?

Land rights

We believe land rights are important, but note that there have been land rights in extensive areas of Australia for twenty years, without significant improvement in outcomes.

An Apology

When we are elected to government, we will apologise to those who were taken or stolen from their parents. We believe that such an apology is important, but we don’t kid ourselves that such an apology will have any immediate effect on aboriginal disadvantage.


We also suspect that just throwing money at the problems won’t solve it. Again, a fair bit of money has been thrown at the problem, with patchy results.

We listen to Noel Pearson and Michael Long and other indigenous leaders and say that they are right, all Australians must travel this road together.

We know that there is no easy solution. If there was, governments of the last twenty of thirty years, who have been looking, would have found it.

We call on the government to make real improvement in the life of indigenous Australians the Great National Project of the early part of this century.

Let us make it the Snowy River Scheme of our time.

Let us do what we did then. Let us recruit the best people for the task.

Let us devote the necessary resources.

Let us make this a non-partisan, non-political, goal for all Australians.

Again, we call on Prime Minister Howard to call the states in and make this a national priority.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

the UN

Hard to know what to conclude re the proposed UN reform.

Not to doubt that it needs reform. I have mates who done and do work for the UN and it’s agencies. The stories one hears, well I have no doubt that the UN is riddled by cynicism, incompetence, nepotism, corruption, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Indeed, rumours abound that an agency head was finally nailed because he groped a Hollywood star who is a UN ambassador. Apparently it was thought he had finally gone too far. Perhaps Roger L Simon knows more.

I guess the real question is whether it is better to make a fundamentally flawed organisation better, and perhaps enhance it's power, or acknowledge that it has it’s uses, but better it has no real grunt.

KIm Carr

Kim Carr, Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs, and a nice fellow so far as factional warriors go, is attacking the Liberal government for it’s proposed mutual obligation welfare for aborigines.

Kim writes,

Consider this scenario: you live in a remote desert community, in a house owned by the Commonwealth. Fifteen people share the house, including six school-aged children. Water pipes to the house are broken and the toilet is blocked. The closest working tap is 100 metres away.
There are not enough beds and so family members sleep four to a bed, or on the floor. You have no washing machine; your clothes are washed in a bucket.

Electricity supply is by means of a generator, which sometimes breaks down. When this happens, any fresh food in the refrigerator is spoiled. In any case, fresh produce has to be air-freighted in, for sale at the community store, and is prohibitively expensive for those on low incomes and benefits.

The family tends to eat bread and canned food, as these are affordable and will keep without refrigeration. Some of the adults, especially the older ones, don't enjoy good health. The lack of fruit and vegetables in their diet contributes to chronic illness.

You want the house's plumbing fixed and the broken windows replaced. You ask your landlord, the Commonwealth, to fulfil its responsibilities for household repair and maintenance. But the Commonwealth refuses to help. It won't help because your community has signed up to one of the new "Shared Responsibility Agreements" (SRAs) saying that, unless the kids go to school 80 per cent of the time and are bathed every day, there will be no maintenance for the house.
It's Catch-22.

Something like this will soon be the reality for many thousands of indigenous Australians. According to advice contained in leaked cabinet documents, government services and welfare benefits will be dependent on "behavioural change" on the part of indigenous clients. The "incentives" will reportedly include "carrots and sticks". "Carrots" might include a pool of bikes that children can ride after school, or a film screening (with Commonwealth-supplied DVD players) for children who have good school attendance.

The Government apparently blames indigenous people for their ill health, poverty and lack of education.

Of course, the sticks as well as the carrots will be justified by the Commonwealth as freely entered into, mutually agreed arrangements.

But the question is this: how is it possible for the Government to coerce indigenous citizens into Shared Responsibility Agreements in return for the provision of basic services and welfare benefits that are their rightful due? How can it do this while not also placing similar conditions on service provision to other Australians?

These proposals smack of blatant discrimination and paternalism at their very worst.
Only 30 per cent of indigenous Australians live to 65 years, compared with 87 per cent of non-indigenous Australians. Sixty per cent - twice as many - people in Bangladesh can expect to live to that age. Bangladesh, of course, is one of the world's poorest countries.

The world's highest rate of the eye disease trachoma occurs among Australia's indigenous people - and this is the only developed country where blinding trachoma remains. Other countries where trachoma is prevalent include Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Afghanistan, Iraq and Vietnam.

Deaths from cardiovascular disease among indigenous people are about five times the rate of those for all Australians. Indigenous people are far more likely to die from accidents, violence or suicide. They have high rates of diabetes and obesity. Aboriginal babies have a significantly lower average birthweight than Australian babies generally.

Infrastructure in many indigenous communities is poor, due to distance, climate and maintenance problems. Employment and training opportunities are often non-existent, and many isolated communities can provide no secondary schooling. Despite the Government's rhetoric about entrepreneurial individualism, there is no genuine talk about economic independence for indigenous people.

And yet the Howard Government apparently blames indigenous people themselves for the ill health, poverty and lack of education that prevail in their communities. They are to blame, and so they must undergo "behavioural change" to remedy their situation and overcome their disadvantage.

Support should be given to all genuine, locally forged partnerships between government and indigenous communities and groups that aim to improve lives and opportunities. In fact, without community support, genuine social change won't happen. We can't have a top-down approach. There are many proud examples of achievement by indigenous Australians working together with government and non-government organisations. We should all want to see indigenous Australians participating in an economy that genuinely includes them.

But that is not what the new Shared Responsibility Agreements are all about. These new-style agreements will be imposed upon people who are not in a position to withstand bureaucratic coercion. They are not about respect, reciprocity or mutual action.

Australia is the only colonising country not to have apologised to the indigenous people who were dispossessed. Many indigenous people still suffer directly as a result of that dispossession. Now our Government, on top of its refusal to say sorry, wants to humiliate its indigenous citizens by denying them services unless they conform to behavioural standards that many, because of their disadvantage, cannot possibly meet.

John Howard believes in the freedom of the individual in a free market: yet in this area of public policy he would prefer, apparently, to adopt an authoritarian, coercive stance that denies the freedom of indigenous people to determine their own lives.

From what we have seen so far of this new approach to indigenous welfare, it runs the risk of shaming Australia in the eyes of the world.

Thanks Kim,

But really, the scenario he paints is full of all the unasked questions that permeate liberal approaches to indigenous affairs.

Note, the house, in a remote desert location, where there is presumably no pospect of employment, is provided by the Commonwealth, why?

The water pipes are broken and the toilet is blocked, who or what caused this?

It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth to fix all these things, why?

fifteen people share the house and no-one fixes the pipes or the blocked tiolet, why?

fiteeen people in the house and they can't organise to carry water a hundred meters, why not?

The children are unable to attend school, or be bathed each day, why?

PJ O’Rourke’s mum told him. ‘no-one is so poor that they can’t pick up their yard’.

I know life in remote Australia is tough for all who undertake it, but no-one is so poor that they can’t bath their children and send them to a local school each day.

To blame poverty is a defamation on the poor.

Monday, November 29, 2004


"We've actually got to get fair dinkum about who we are, what we stand for, who we represent, and ensure that we put a clear, coherent picture across the board to the Australian people. And although, if you look at what we've done in the past seven or eight years you'll see examples of good things, good policies and specific positions, there's too much blurring, too much confusion, too much inconsistency and it's the total picture that's the problem. That's what we've got to work on, issues. Dealing with issues on their merits, standing up for who we are and what we believe."

So says Lindsay Tanner, former member of Mark Latham’s shadow cabinet, a man of real talent, and a born leader. He and Julia Gillard are two of the best of the best in Labor’s federal caucus. Naturally, this being Labor, they have fought in the past. Gillard lost a fierce contest for the labor endorsement for the seat of Melbourne to Tanner in the early 1990’s.

What a waste we make of our best people.

Stephen Conroy is also a talent, but he seems to be being humiliated to cover some over-sensitivity on the part of our leader.

Really, Labor doesn’t have enough men and women of real ability to do anything but have them all on side, and of course there is no conflict between seeking the votes of the middle ground and good policy. Indeed, generally speaking the two are so-existent, given the good common sense of the ordinary punters.